We were looking around for a sound system for the upstairs bedrooms in the Automated Home when, by a happy coincidence, Soundvision Technologies got in touch to ask if we’d like to try out their VSSL A.1 music streaming amplifier.
VSSL (pronounced Vessel), along with TruAudio, are part of the Soundvision Technologies family which is best known for their high-end speakers, custom install products and impressive outdoor subwoofers and sound systems.
Their streaming amplifier range has 3 models, the 6-Zone A.6, the 3-Zone A.3 and the single zone A.1 we have here. It can be used to provide music in one room and provide an expansion path to form part of a multi-zone, whole-house audio system too.
The A.1 has a 2 channel amp (35 watts at 8Ω, or 50 watts at 4Ω) and has on-board support for both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming. Round the back there is a comprehensive set of digital and analogue I/O which makes the flexible A.1 useful for several applications.
- Digital Coax
- Digital Optical
- Digital Coax
- Digital Optical
It is reminiscent of a black Mac mini in shape and size (dimensions 189mm x 221mm x 51mm) and that footprint includes a built-in PSU too. Its feet are held on with magnets so easily removed, reducing its height to just 43 mm. This, along with the Integrated Wall Mount means it can be hidden behind a TV, or fit within 1U on a 19″ rack.
The ‘Line Out Only’ switch turns the A.1 into a source (no amp) should you wish to connect it to an existing setup. In our case we are taking advantage of the on-board amplifier which seems ideal for ceiling or bookshelf speakers.
Part of the unique proposition here is that the unit is setup and controlled using the Google Home app. We powered up the A.1, relying on just its builtin WiFi (rather than using its Ethernet) and it immediately appeared on our scan.
After following the guided setup the A.1 was assigned to the bedroom and ready to go. Next we connected the speakers which are wired up using Phoenix terminal connectors. These are a nice touch which hint at TruAudio’s custom install heritage.
On the other end of the speaker cables is a pair of TruAudio’s B.23 bookshelf speakers. Lastly a phono cable connected the sub out on the A.1 to the TruAudio’s CSUB-10 active subwoofer.
There are no buttons at all on the unit itself and I’d like to see at least a mute button added. The included IR receiver is clever though. This plugs into the A.1’s rear panel and can be sited remotely (ideal if the streamer is in a cabinet or behind a TV). Using the VSSL App (Android and iOS) you can learn buttons from most IR remotes (your TVs volume controls for example), allowing you to control the audio without having to pull your phone out of your pocket. The VSSL app is also used to configure various aspects of the system, including naming zones and setting the graphic equaliser.
Everything was up and running in around 20 minutes.
The A.1 has built-in support for Chromecast, Apple Airplay 2, Spotify Connect and DLNA. That means you can stream to it from Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, YouTube, Amazon Music, Pandora, SoundCloud and many others.
With dual band WiFi (2.4 GHz / 5.8 GHz MIMO) we were able to place the A.1 anywhere round the house and rely on the wireless network. There’s a hard wired option too and with 2 Ethernet ports you’ll still have one free in the room.
We connected it to our bedroom TV using the optical input. That local input can then be streamed to other rooms too – so you can be listening to the evening news for example from this TV in any other room with a VSSL zone.
What TruAudio is aiming to do here in a way reminds me of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. They are taking away the need to wait for the OEM to develop or update features, getting out of the way and letting you use your preferred apps instead. And in our book, that’s a very good thing.
In Part 2 we’ll take a look at the speakers and subwoofer we are pairing with the A.1 and checkout the voice control features and sound quality of this setup in action.
In the meantime remember to check out our Instagram to follow our project, read the rest of the Automated Home 2.0 blog posts and find the links to all the other products we’ve used in our self-build.